Duterte tells Kian delos Santos' parents they will have justice

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte personally promised the parents of 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos that they will have justice for the death of their son.

"Yes. It was made very clear to them," Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told Rappler in a text message on Monday, August 28. He was asked to clarify if justice was among Duterte's promises to Saldy and Lorenza delos Santos.

Aguirre was among the government officials present at the meeting, which took place over lunch and lasted two hours. The justice chief previously downplayed Delos Santos' death, saying it was "blown out of proportion" by the media.

Malacañang, in a photo caption, said Duterte vowed to the couple that "there will be no interference in the case," adding that "only due process will prevail."

The Delos Santoses earlier filed criminal complaints against Caloocan police involved in the August 16 anti-drug operation that left their son dead.

Duterte supposedly assured the couple that their complaint will be handled in a "fair" manner. Opposition senators have called for the case to be transferred to the Office of the Ombudsman, however, questioning the independence of the Department of Justice. (READ: Aguirre: What's the difference between kids killed by addicts, cops?)

Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta also said one of Duterte's assurances to the parents of Kian was that "justice will prevail." (READ: PNP contradicts PAO: Only 2, not 3, gunshot wounds on Kian)

Aguirre, in a DZMM radio interview, said the Delos Santos couple also asked for protection or security since they felt their lives are under threat. 

Duterte, meanwhile, explained to them why he did not attend their son's wake. According to Aguirre, it was the same explanation he gave to media a week before – that he, as president, is commander of the police force and it would be inappropriate for him to attend the wake while the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is conducting a probe into Kian's death.

Just hours before meeting the Delos Santos couple, Duterte told media that he is inclined to think the police were in the wrong with the way they dealt with the teenager. (READ: Cops 'confirmed' Kian 'drug ties' after operation, through social media)

"Pero (But) from the looks of it, it ain't that way. Hindi 'yun (It wasn't) performance of duty," said Duterte during a press conference in San Fernando, Pampanga.

Duterte hugged Lorenza before the meeting was over. She and her husband can be seen smiling in some of the photos sent by Malacañang.

The Delos Santoses could also be seen doing Duterte's signature "fist bump," along with Duterte ally and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption founding chairman Dante Jimenez.

This is the first time Duterte has commiserated with family members of supposed drug suspects killed in the name of his drug war. The President has more often been seen visiting the wake of police or soldiers who died implementing his anti-drug campaign.

Before Delos Santos' death, Duterte had only harsh words for drug suspects, warning them of death at the hands of law enforcers. (READ: After Kian slay, Duterte tempers messaging on drug war)

Outraged by Delos Santos' death, hundreds of citizens have taken to the streets, demanding an end to the drug war. They claim that the teenager's death is proof that even innocents have been victimized by Duterte's bloody campaign. (READ: Q&A: Duterte on Kian delos Santos, future of drug war) – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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